Of Note: MyStory.hias.org - Retelling the Exodus Saga of our Times

Posted by Gideon Aronoff on Fri, Apr 18, 2008 at 12:41 pm

As Jews around the world gather for their Passover seders, we remember Maimonides teaching that “There is a positive mitzvah in the Torah commanding us to relate all the wonders and miracles that happened to our forefathers in Egypt on the night of the 15th of Nisan,” based on Exodus 13;3: “Remember this day that you left Egypt.” (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Hametz and Matza, Chapter 7).

Over 127 years working with refugees and immigrants, HIAS has had the privilege to help over 4.5 million people – refugees, asylum seekers, immigrants and others – fulfill their own dreams of exodus. The Jews and non-Jews that we assisted were fleeing persecution, violence, hatred and poverty and were seeking freedom, security, hope and opportunity.

This year, Maimonides’ teaching has special relevance for HIAS as we seek to honor the international movement to free the Jews of the former Soviet Union (FSU) and HIAS’ crucial role in this effort. HIAS directly assisted more than 400,000 Jews from the FSU to fulfill their own dreams of exodus, finding refuge in local Jewish communities across the United States. HIAS also advocated in support of the exodus of over one million FSU Jews who made aliyah to Israel.

This past year the Jewish community celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Soviet Jewry movement, as well as the 20th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Soviet Jewry at which a quarter of a million demonstrators demanded, “Let My People Go.” This month, as part of these celebrations and as HIAS’ unique contribution to our community-wide commemoration, we are launching myStory.hias.org.

This exciting new venture is a first-person, interactive, multimedia, multilingual platform for the participants in the Soviet Jewry exodus to tell their own stories. Here, FSU Jews will be given the opportunity to post stories, pictures, sound files and other materials about their past in the FSU, decision to emigrate, life in transit and resettlement in their new homes. They will also be able to reconnect with their “class” of émigrés (1967-present), restore ties to friends and relatives that were severed in the migration process, and use myStory.hias.org as a vehicle to connect generations of Russian-born Jewish refugees with their American-born and American-raised children and grandchildren.

While we are excited about the opportunities that myStory.hias.org will provide to the Russian-speaking participants in the Soviet Jewish exodus, this project will have a vitally important impact on the broader Jewish community as well. The myStory project will seek to bring the Russian-speaking Jewish narrative – in their own words – fully into the broader story of American and World Jewry. As such, it will aid the entire Jewish community in better understanding our newest members as it helps Russian-speaking Jews see themselves in the larger Jewish communal migration saga.

And so, this Passover we fulfill the mitzvah and retell the story of the biblical exodus, but also look forward to seeing the promise of HIAS’ myStory project fulfilled as it enables our Russian-speaking Jewish community to tell and retell their – and our – story of the exodus from the FSU.

MyStory.hias.org could not have gotten to this point without the untiring leadership of myStory National Chair Genia Brin – a member of the HIAS Board of Directors and one of the inaugural story tellers of the myStory Project.

Wishing all of you a happy and Joyous Pesach.

Comments (0)